Saturday, 31 October 2009

Dracula (1931)

"Dracula" on Halloween - how unimaginative... In my defence I would like to add it was the first time I saw it. I read Bram Stoker's book when I was 13 or 14 and I still recall the excitement the book provoked on me (possibly wouldn't have the same effect today). The film resembles it in little more than the characters' names. And what's worst, it left me bored and thinking I might have watched something else instead. Time has not been kind to it.

I think I could find reasons why I almost hated it in every scene. Here are a few: Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" over the opening credits; the hero, who is a dreadful bore; the gaps in the plot that are not explained (Lucy's death which is mention in passage much later or Van Helsing's staying behind at the end) suggesting a lot was left in the editing room floor; the cheapness of it all - Warner made it look good, Universal... well, not so. And of course, the main reason, Count Dracula himself, Bela Lugosi. The man can't act. The man is not menacing. There is too much silent film pantomime from him, and certainly way too many close-ups of his eyes that no longer produce the desired effect. I know a lot of people still love this film, but I am not one of them.

Tod Browning was actually able to do much better such as "Freaks" or "The Unknown" (I would love to see more of his Lon Chaney stuff, but alas, no DVD edition) so it does seem a wasted opportunity. I've heard the Spanish language version is actually superior, so I'll try to keep an eye for it. The sole redeeming feature, is Dwight Frye's performance of Renfield, an amalgamation of two characters from the book (one being the romantic hero).

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